At the beginning of each year I take a hard look at our finances. I also do regular checks throughout the year, but January, after the busyness of Christmas is over, there is more time to really look at every expense thoroughly. Its also that time of year when there are more gov't taxes taken off my pay cheque, so there is less take home pay too.
Throughout the year those regular bills creep up and services stay the same, or are reduced. Each year I give some of these services a call to either cut the service level to reduce our bill or ask about what the latest promotion is. If you don't ask, they don't offer.
For instance, our local cable company called and tried to get us to switch our telephone over to them for a very attractive offer (for one year...then after one year goes to the regular price). I said I'd think about it and then gave our telephone company a call and told them that I'd been offered the attractive price to switch, and why should I stay with you? Right away they gave me a reduction in my current bill plus a $75 credit. If you don't ask, they don't offer.
January is also a time when I have more time to read. I like to read financial type books to pick up more tips on where we can save. I've done a number of changes over the years, such as cooking from scratch, canning/preserving, shop with a list, buy food on sale, use coupons, buy used whenever possible from thrift stores/garage sales, make/take my lunch to work, do our own taxes, renegotiated mortgage to a lower rate, started a vegetable garden, collect free wood for home heating, etc. All these changes have become the usual for us, so I'm always looking new ideas. I have a few favourite finance books, ones which I've read a couple of times. Each time I've re-read these I pick up a few new tips. I've also learned a lot by reading other's blogs on ideas and ways to further reduce expenses.
My favourite books include:
1) Your Money or Your Life
2) Tightwad Gazette
3) Gail Vaz-Oxlade books
4) Ultimate Suburban Survivalists Guide.
5) Joy of Less
Reading List for this year
1) Cold Hard Truth on Men, Women & Money - Kevin O'Leary
2) Money Rules - Gail Vaz Oxlade
3) Money Rules - The Simple Path to Lifelong Security - Jean Chatzky
1) Thoroughly review every bill to see where cuts can be made. So far, after a couple changes I've managed to reduce a couple of bills by $150 a month, which included giving up cable TV. Still working on this challenge to find more ways to reduce. Every little bit adds up.
2) Better manage our electricity use. We are charged different rates depending on the time of day electricity is consumed. The highest rate for us during winter months is during dinner time, when you're trying to cook a meal. So I try not to use my oven every day, and cook more on weekends when the rate is the lowest or use the crockpot more, do laundry on weekends and avoid using the dryer, etc.
3) Explore idea of working from home 1 or 2 days a week to reduce wear and tear on my 8 year old car and reduce fuel consumption.
What are your challenges?